Train for Your First Half Marathon

How to Train for Your First Half Marathon: A Comprehensive Guide

Training for a half marathon can be both an exciting and challenging experience, especially if you’re new to long-distance running. This comprehensive guide will help you train for your first half marathon by providing you with the essential information, tips, and a suggested training plan. Let’s get started!

Understanding the Half Marathon

A half marathon is a 21.1-kilometer (13.1-mile) race that requires a combination of endurance, strength, and mental fortitude. To successfully complete your first half marathon, you’ll need a solid training plan that focuses on gradually increasing your mileage, incorporating cross-training, and improving your running technique.

Half Marathon Training Plan Overview

The following is a general overview of a half marathon training plan. Keep in mind that everyone’s fitness level and goals are different, so you may need to adjust the plan according to your needs. If you’re unsure about how to modify the plan, consider seeking advice from a personal trainer or online coach.

  1. Base Building: Spend 4-6 weeks gradually increasing your weekly mileage to establish a solid running base.
  2. Training Phase: Follow a 12-16 week half marathon training plan that includes long runs, speed work, and cross-training.
  3. Tapering: Reduce your mileage and intensity during the 2-3 weeks leading up to the race to allow your body to recover and prepare for race day.
  4. Race Day: Execute your race strategy and enjoy the accomplishment of completing your first half marathon!

Base Building To Train for Your First Half Marathon

Before beginning your half marathon training, it’s essential to have a solid foundation of running fitness. During this phase, you should focus on gradually increasing your weekly mileage to avoid injury and build your aerobic capacity.

  1. Start Slow: If you’re new to running or have been inactive for a while, start with shorter distances and gradually increase your mileage.
  2. Run Consistently: Aim to run at least 3-4 times per week to build a consistent running routine.
  3. Increase Mileage Gradually: Increase your weekly mileage by no more than 10% to reduce the risk of injury.
  4. Listen to Your Body: If you experience pain or discomfort, scale back your mileage and consult with a healthcare professional if necessary.

Half Marathon Training Phase

Once you’ve established a solid running base, it’s time to dive into your half marathon training plan. This phase should last 12-16 weeks, depending on your fitness level and goals.

Long Runs

Long runs are a critical component of half marathon training, as they help to build your endurance and mental toughness.

  1. Schedule Weekly Long Runs: Aim to complete one long run per week, gradually increasing the distance by 1-2 kilometers (0.6-1.2 miles) each week.
  2. Run at a Comfortable Pace: Your long runs should be completed at a comfortable, conversational pace. This will help you build aerobic endurance without overtaxing your body.
  3. Fuel and Hydrate Properly: Practice your race day nutrition and hydration strategy during your long runs to ensure your body is adequately fueled and hydrated.

Speed Work

Incorporating speed work into your training can help improve your running efficiency and overall race performance.

  1. Include Interval Training: Incorporate interval workouts, such as tempo runs, fartlek sessions, or track workouts, into your training plan once per week.
  2. Vary Your Speed Work: Mix up your speed workouts to target different aspects of your running fitness, such as lactate threshold, VO2 max, and leg turnover, running fitness, such as lactate threshold, VO2 max, and leg turnover.
  1. Warm Up and Cool Down: Make sure to properly warm up before your speed workouts and cool down afterward to reduce the risk of injury.


Cross-training is an essential part of a balanced training plan, as it helps to prevent overuse injuries and improve overall fitness.

  1. Choose Complementary Activities: Select cross-training activities that complement your running, such as cycling, swimming, or strength training.
  2. Schedule Cross-Training Sessions: Aim to include 1-2 cross-training sessions per week, focusing on building strength, flexibility, and balance.
  3. Listen to Your Body: As with running, pay attention to any pain or discomfort during cross-training activities and adjust your workouts accordingly.


Recovery is a crucial aspect of half marathon training, as it allows your body to adapt to the increased workload and prepare for future workouts.

  1. Schedule Rest Days: Include at least one rest day per week to give your body time to recover and repair.
  2. Prioritize Sleep: Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night to support optimal recovery.
  3. Incorporate Active Recovery: On your rest days, consider light activities such as yoga, stretching, or walking to promote blood flow and aid recovery.


Tapering is the process of reducing your training volume and intensity in the weeks leading up to your half marathon. This allows your body to recover and prepare for race day.

  1. Reduce Mileage: Gradually decrease your weekly mileage by 20-30% during the 2-3 weeks before your race.
  2. Maintain Intensity: While your mileage decreases, maintain the intensity of your workouts to keep your fitness sharp.
  3. Focus on Nutrition and Hydration: Prioritize a balanced diet and proper hydration during the tapering phase to ensure your body is well-fueled for race day.

Race Day

Congratulations! You’ve made it to race day. Here are some final tips to help you have a successful first half marathon experience.

  1. Have a Race Strategy: Develop a race plan that includes pacing, nutrition, and hydration strategies to help you stay on track during the race.
  2. Warm Up Properly: Spend 15-20 minutes warming up with dynamic stretches and light jogging to prepare your body for the race.
  3. Pace Yourself: Start the race at a comfortable, sustainable pace and avoid the temptation to go out too fast.
  4. Enjoy the Experience: Remember to soak in the accomplishment of completing your first half marathon and celebrate your achievement!

Conclusion: Train for Your First Half Marathon

Training for your first half marathon is an exciting and challenging journey. By following a comprehensive training plan that includes base building, long runs, speed work, cross-training, and proper recovery, you’ll be well-prepared to conquer the 21.1-kilometer (13.1-mile) distance.

If you need additional guidance or support during your training, consider working with a personal trainer like Nathaniel Ernst or Tyson Linford, who can help you develop a customized plan and provide expert advice. To get started, schedule a consultation with a trainer and embark on your half marathon journey with confidence.